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November 9, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 9017

Amid Azerbaijan-Armenia Fighting, Turkish Dailies Propose 'Turkic NATO': 'The Turkic States Must Unite'

November 9, 2020
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 9017

Turanism, also called pan-Turanism and pan-Turkism, is a political philosophy whose adherents seek to unite the world's Turkic peoples, who live primarily in Turkey, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. While the origin of the idea of a language group, and by extension a national group, uniting these peoples can be traced to major Enlightenment-era philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the idea began to spread among Ottoman military officers and elites living in Imperial Germany in the 1870s. The question of the precise role of this idea in the policy and philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, is a subject of debate, but some of the policy and rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP reflects Turanist influence.

The website of the Turkic Council, an international organization whose General Secretariat is in Istanbul, Turkey, reads: "The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) was established in 2009 as an intergovernmental organization, with the overarching aim of promoting comprehensive cooperation among Turkic Speaking States. Its four founding member states are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. During the 7th Summit held in Baku in October 2019, Uzbekistan joined the Council as a full member. Hungary received observer status at the Turkic Council during its 6th Summit in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyz Republic in September 2018."[1]

Amid the recent fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over control of Nagorno-Karabagh, there has been talk in the Turkish press about the formation of a "Turan Army." While its exact shape remains a subject of discussion, the proposed "Turan Army" would be a military organization comprising the armies of the states in which these peoples live. The discussion is prompted in part by the military support of Turkey, most of whose population is ethnically Turkic, for Azerbaijan, another such country, in the recent fighting.

In an October 27, 2020 article in the Turkish daily Türkiye about the formation of a "Turan Army," professor and writer Dr. Kürşad Zorlu called it an "important goal" but warned: "For projects like this to be announced too much before the necessary mental framework and international balances have reached an acceptable level can cause the process to come to nothing."

In the same article, professor and writer Dr. Cemalettin Taşkıran said of the recent fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia: "It would not be wrong to say that the support that Turkey gave [to Azerbaijan] changed the balance in the region." He then cryptically warned against discussing the topic too openly: "Will this go on to [the formation of] a Turan Army? Inshallah it will. But it is too early to put this into words. To say such things will wake up many of those who attend meetings."

In an October 28 column in the Yeni Çağ daily, writer Ahmet Gürsoy went into more detail about the structure of such an organization, calling it "a kind of Turkic NATO," and said that: "Before forming a Turan Army, the infrastructure that will get us there must be established. First of all, joint commercial institutions must be established. Then a process for an art and culture union should be put in order with a clear plan. Much more important, education policies should be developed, and student exchanges should be done not randomly, but systematically, in an organized manner, for this purpose."

The following report will review recent commentary in the Turkish press on the formation of a "Turan Army."

"The Turkic States Must Unite: The Turan Army Is The Hope"

The front-page headline of the October 27, 2020 issue of Türkiye daily, which has the fourth-highest print circulation of any daily in Turkey,[2] read: "The Turkic States Must Unite: The Turan Army Is The Hope." An introduction to the article read: "The success in Karabagh has brought once again to the agenda one of the West's greatest fears: the Turan Army. Azerbaijan, which has become stronger with the military training, joint drills, and support with armed drones that Turkey has provided, has broken Armenia's back. This picture of success that has appeared has once again brought to life the hopes concerning a Turan Army, that would be the joint military power of the Turkic states. The Turan Army, which will be a unique option for disrupting the plots in the region, will become a leading actor on every issue." Subheadings read: "It Will Be A Global Power – It Is Early But Definitely One Day."


The front page of Türkiye daily called for the formation of a "Turan Army" (source: Gzt.com).

The article[3] continued: "The idea of a 'Turan Army,' which has been discussed for a long time, has once again come to the agenda following Azerbaijan's successes against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, which it achieved with the support of the military training, joint drills, and armed drone support that Turkey gave. Most recently, the agreement on military training and cooperation [signed] on the visit of [Turkish] Defense Minister Hulusi Akar to Kazakhstan, has been as a step toward establishing a joint army of Turkic states. Experts who have answered our newspaper's question of 'Is a Turan Army possible?' called attention to the point that this army, which is expected to be formed under Turkey's leadership, would be able to have a voice on every issue, regionally and globally.

"An Important Goal

"Prof. Dr. Kürşad Zorlu: This is a topic that comes to the agenda from time to time in the Turkic world and particularly in Turkey. With the Karabagh war, the consequences of Turkey-Azerbaijan military cooperation have brought this subject to a different dimension. The name 'Armed Forces Organization With Military Status' was given to the organization formed from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia in 2013. This created a lot of excitement. Even this precursor news frightened certain corners. The Turan Army is an important goal and for now it is the reflection of an enthusiasm, of an ideal. It is an indicator whose expectation in the long term is high.

"At the present time it is necessary that, within the structure of the Turkic Council,  joint-military capacity be strengthened and technical cooperation be transformed into concrete steps. I want to emphatically clarify that: For projects like this to be declared too much before the necessary mental framework and international balances have reached an acceptable level can cause the process to come to nothing. I also want to underline that when the Karabagh struggle reaches the level it deserves this will create a big motivation in the Turkic world.

"Certainly One Day...

"Prof. Dr. Cemalettin Taşkıran: In Turkish history, the periods in which the Central Asian Republics got as close [as they are today] to the Ottoman state, and later to the Republic of Turkey, and in fact, gave each other such close support, are so few as to be non-existent. A consequence of this is the situation that has come after the joint drills in Azerbaijan and Nahchivan, which started with the [Armenian] attack on [the Azeri city of] Tovuz [on July 12, 2020].

"After that was Armenia's attack, and the response to these attacks, and with Turkey's spiritual support, in a very short time, the regaining of nearly all of the land [Azerbaijan] had lost. This pleased the entire Turkic world. It would not be wrong to say that the support that Turkey gave changed the balance in the region. Will this go on to [the formation of] a Turan Army? Inshallah it will. But it is too early to put this into words. To say such things will wake up many of those who attend meetings. Actually, it seems that when a powerful will comes forward, the things that today seem impossible may be realized in a short time, [or] in the medium or long term."


Dr. Kürşad Zorlu, left, Dr. Cemalettin Taşkıran, center, and Ahmet Gürsoy commented on the notion of a Turan Army.

"Turkic NATO" Requires "The Infrastructure That Will Get Us There": "Joint Commercial Institutions... An Art And Culture Union... Education Policies"

In an October 28 column titled "The Turan Army" in the Yeni Çağ daily,[4] writer Ahmet Gürsoy wrote: "Can it be? Yes. If we want it and we decide [to do it], it will be. Should it be? Yes to that too, it should be. It should be established, and the Turkic union should be wrapped up in a military organization and a concrete legal identity. This way all Turks will come under one single army umbrella and one single military personage. The dream, without beginning or end, of Turkish nationalists, is the great homeland: the Turan homeland may not be realized geographically. For this reason, we may not be able to geographically unite all of the Turks under a single flag as they were in their imperial periods. However, socially, by forming a legal identity, we can unite the whole Turkic union under a single flag, just as multinational companies are represented by the same flag in every corner of the world. The most striking and possible way to do this is the Turan Army.

"There will be those who say 'these are dreams.' Let them say it. It is a beautiful dream, and also, so long as a geographic union is not necessary, it would not be difficult to do. It might be said: 'Who would manage this army? When one of the Turkic states is harmed, who will make the decision to intervene?'

"Certainly, such an army could not be like the army of a self-contained state. There would be a legal arrangement to determine what would be done and how, like a kind of Turkic NATO, along with an institutional structure that would comprise the partnership's framework. This arrangement would answer the above questions."

After quoting Dr. Kürşad Zorlu's statement in the October 27 Türkiye article, Gürsoy wrote: "Mr. Kürşad is correct. On the one hand, the minds and the consciousness of the Turkic states must reach a certain level, and also the international community, particularly those countries who would not like [such a formation] must be considered. For this reason, before forming a Turan Army, the infrastructure that will get us there must be established. First of all, joint commercial institutions must be established. Then a process for an art and culture union should be put in order with a clear plan.

"Much more important, education policies should be developed, and student exchanges should be done not randomly, but systematically, in an organized manner, for this purpose. To this end, those governing Turkey should have such a political will. We need leaders who are far-seeing, future-oriented, and can set big goals. Even if, for now, the crumbs of small ideas are moving about, men of grand ideals will come forward and, by turning the Turan into an institutional identity, will gather every single Turk mentally in one place."

Other Commentary On The Formation Of A "Turan Army"

On August 20, 2020, Turkish daily Yeni Akit reported that finance commentator Kaan Sarıaydın said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan planned to announce on October 29 the formation of a Turan Army. Sarıaydın said: "The Turan Army will be formed soon. This is not a dream anymore. We did this project bit by bit. This isn't a task that takes a day or two. Now it is time to announce it. I definitely have hope. I won't let the surprise slip. On October 29 the Turan Army will be announced. This is my hope. The announcement of the Turkic union could come at any moment. There is very little time [left] now."[5] However, no such announcement has been made.

Azeri singer Azerin said in an October 21 television appearance: "During such a series of battles, only Turkey stood by us. We see that no one stood behind us. We refer to the 'Turkic world.' There is something that we always say. Inshallah, we will form the Turan Army, but it can't happen this way. The fighting started on September 27. When did the Turkic states begin to make noise? Much, much later they began to make noise. After Putin spoke, the Turkic states began to make noise."[6]

Conclusion

For some years now, President Erdoğan has made Ottoman imagery and references to the country's Ottoman past a central part of his messaging,[7] while many of his supporters have openly called for the re-establishment of the Caliphate.[8] Major Turkish government-controlled dailies have commented on the tension in the Mediterranean Sea[9] as well as in reference to Turkey's military policy in Libya[10] and in Syria within the framework of the Turkey's Ottoman history.[11]

The notion of the formation of a "Turan Army," and the Turanist ideal of which it is an extension, is another expression of the drive for the reconstruction of Turkey's grandeur. However, in the Turanic form, this drive is directed eastward and has so far taken shape in far less rhetoric and policy than its neo-Ottoman counterpart. It is not clear to what degree Turkey's political elites adhere to the Turanist ideal, and, although President Erdoğan proudly extended help to Azerbaijan, he has not issued statements in line with it. It remains to be seen whether this wave of Turanic enthusiasm in the Turkish press reflects a project with political weight or whether it is simply an ephemeral phenomenon related to the recent military clash with Armenia.

 

[1] Turkkon.org/en/turk-konseyi-hakkinda, accessed November 4, 2020.

[2] Gazetetirajlari.com, accessed November 4, 2020.

[3] Turkiyegazetesi.com.tr/gundem/741999.aspx, October 27, 2020.

[4] Yenicaggazetesi.com.tr/turan-ordusu-57249yy.htm, October 28, 2020.

[5] Yeniakit.com.tr/haber/kaan-sariaydin-acikladi-turkiye-o-ulkelerle-turan-ordusunu-kuruyor-1365045.html, August 20, 2020.

[6] Milatgazetesi.com/haber/azerinden-turan-ordusu-tepkisi-1848, October 21, 2020.

[8] Birgun.net/haber/gericilerden-cagri-ayasofya-artik-hur-hilafet-icin-toplanin-309696, July 26, 2020.

[10] Yenisafak.com/en/columns/yusufkaplan/turkey-is-taking-critical-strategic-steps-but-beware-of-the-siege-2047606, September 29, 2020.

[11] Yenisafak.com/en/columns/yusufkaplan/turkeys-mere-presence-is-imperialists-worst-nightmare-2047365, March 1, 2020.

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